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X-Plane Year Review 2014 and Welcoming in 2015.


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X-Plane Year Review 2014 and Welcoming in 2015.


Well that was 2014? What did you think of it? The usual, the different or just forget the whole year happened. Well it was different in a unusual way in that it wasn't filled with the usual things that turn the simulator upside down. My view it was quite a subdued year in a way, but a lot still happened and a lot changed. But I did feel this time last year that X-Plane needed a more stable settling period to consolidate its main base and in a big way that did happen. The word "consolidate" is the key point here, and in that context for X-Plane it was a very good year.


Review 2014

The year started off with loads and just loads of scenery released, The excellent LEVC - Valencia from DAI-Media started it all off and I loved this Spanish scenery. Tom Curtis had another great year with KDEN - Denver and big updates to his great packages "Final Frontier" and "Seattle - Boeing Country" and his "Las Vegas "Glitter Gulch" through out the year had a touch more magic as well. Another good solid year from Tom. Santiago Butnaru was another who gave a lot of prolific scenery releases this year with KBUF (Buffalo-Niagara) which is underrated, KFLL - Fort Lauderdale and last week KEWR - Newark. Two stood out in CZST Stewart by beti-x and EIDW - Dublin by Aerosoft were both brilliant but in their very different ways, But as scenery goes it was a really good year, a lot of really great freeware and many new faces having a go at doing some work with a lot of the usual suspects delivering outstanding work. Two points I will highlight here in the return of ISDG with a bang with Steve K and YMML - Melbourne and the simply amazing "tdg"and If one person has single-handedly changed our scenery base it is tdg. I really loved the recently released "Winter_Package" of winter scenery from Albert (xflyer) who is the person that creates the default Laminar Research autogen art...  simply amazing, and Laminar has also made hints it could be included in the base simulator in a start of the seasons feature, well bring that on. Another great late in the year release is the v3 terrain files from Alpilotx, another step up in high-quality detail, but a huge just under 100gb download for the lot (It takes two days alone if you want it all downloaded now) but it does now also include Australia. I earlier had my doubts about the Laminar Research default airport scenery system, but it works very well and not as intrusive as I expected, the updated WED 1.30 is also now very, very good.


Overall the scenery aspect came along in heaps and bounds this year, 2014 was a really good year for scenery and I am getting really very impressed by a lot of the images coming out of the simulator. Not perfect by a long shot, but a big and definite step forward and X-Plane is finally fixing its biggest blackhole.


Laminar Research felt like it was being diverted by another presence in 2014 and that turned out to be fact in most of the development time of the year went into an upgrade of LR's other simulator business in mobile games or X-Plane 10 MOBILE for iPhone or iPad. They note that these products help the desktop version and vice-versa, and you can't argue with that philosophy, and the launch of X-Plane 10 on STEAM has again shown that LR is aiming lately at the gamer crowd for more business and users, So is X-Plane a game or a simulator? will the roads narrow as the products come closer aligned? I still see a big difference flying on my desktop to using X-Plane on my iPad (you can however fly around the room making loud aircraft noises with your steering iPad), but my only really big fun and main focus is my addictive personality of minecraft proportions of collecting and building my huge X-Plane scenery world and flying around it.


One major (and only) X-Plane release for the desktop simulator form was version or v10.30 in a mid-year release in June. But it was a beauty, and its biggest feature was how well rounded it was when it was released. It didn't feel like a beta and had no really big hidden nasties, it was also brilliant from day one and a really good well rounded product. Laminar noted that they had taken their time to do this one and it showed, great quality and great features. The standout was the inclusion of an updated GARMIN 430/530 gps which was just sensational in design and operation. Created by Philipp Münzel my personal "Person of the Year" in 2013, in he had been recruited by LR to do development work directly for LR in 2014 and that took Philipp out of the daily limelight, but his brilliance was once again shown in a great feature and also gave the simulator another big push forward. He will be there for 2015, so expect more great things from him, Chris and Guru in the next year.


Again v10.30 provided a very good consolidation of the desktop simulator, it refined and changed it into a more complete application that was more reliable and even smooth. There was a few missing features that had been promised like a wider visual distance that is really (really) showing now its time and age in the simulator these days and there was still no update to the average autocratic ATC system that is so badly required to make X-Plane 10 deliver on its promised features, no better water shading or cultures either, but maybe in 2015 a few of these changes will finally grace our screens.


I noted in last years 2013 review that this year would be the last year for X-Plane9, that has come to pass as most developers now don't issue X-Plane9 versions with their releases, the biggest is of course Carenado and in that the v3/10.30 upgrade was completely X-Plane10 and no new product from either Carenado or Alabeo would in the future will be in X-Plane9. If you keep X-Plane9 into 2015, you are going to find it very slim pickings indeed for (payware) aircraft and a lot of quality scenery for that simulator version. X-Plane has now moved a long, long way even from its own X-Plane10 release version, in to a point it is now barely recognisable from its own small time beginnings.


The biggest satisfaction for me in 2014 was the emergence of more developers that were willing to put their talent on the line and build payware. The gap from freeware to payware is simply massive, you have to be good not only in one area but many or create a stable team to produce good aircraft. It is not easy in covering this gap, as even the very best have had their moments this year. Once you cross that line and ask for payment, you are then required to deliver in every area, but the rewards are also very good if you can pull the off the project. X-Plane now requires extremely high quality, no half-measures can pass the line and it is a tough line, but it is still very highly required. In that talent and products build the simulator and the good news is X-Plane uses will pay for quality products, and that is a very good thing. As it goes both ways in that the users get great product and the developers will keep producing great product to satisfy the need. So both the users and the developers both benefit...  In that area X-plane has crossed that invisible line.


But quality was there even if at first the fine-tuning points are not. So basically the work was always very good, but the real work and talent is in that very last 5% to get that tuning and the quality first rate. Stephane Buon of Aerobask was a real talent this year in not only turning out interesting modern like the Lancair Legacy FG aircraft but refitting out his older work to the 10.30 requirements, and with a flourish even finished off the year with an amazing glider (Antares 20E). The X-Trident team with their amazing Bell - 412 was another great intro. X-Crafts produced his ERJ-195ER that really was a great start in quality payware and Jetsim gave us an Airbus A330-300 with CRT instruments. MLADG gave us some WW2 German fighter experience with the Me 262. And Colimata's Mig-29 blew me away, and on a modern twist AoA Simulations released just lately their F-35B Lighting ll.


But the old hand operators still delivered as well. As a group they delivered very deep immersion simulation with always new tricks to get your attention. Reviewing these challenging deep system aircraft is taking longer and longer to deliver your verdict, as you have so much ground to cover. Many need not a week now but weeks to understand and get the very best from and to understand how to fly them to their best performance. Peter's (Hager) Aircraft started off the year with his 3d A320/A321 series, but I was simply a non-starter from the very start. The aircraft no matter how much I twisted my settings could they run on my computer, frame rate was always in the low single figures and I simply had to give up any chance of giving them a fair review. It was the first time I had actually gave up and moved on, something I simply don't like to do. I tried again later in the year with the same results. JARDesign did a few updates till mid-year to his A320 but then left it to focus on the A330. SSG - Supercritical Simulations Group started the year with a bang in the B748i which was a bit raw, but steady and quality time in development brought this aircraft (And the just released Freighter version) up to a very high standard and they now both now sit in that high point quality area. Jack and Joe from FlyJSim did not disappoint with their excellent Boeing 732, another really great simulation and a great companion in your hanger with the B727 Series.


FlightFactor also was busy with great upgrades (including engine options) to both their Boeing 777 and 757 series aircraft, and later in the year the release of the amazing A350-900 with a menu system that is just so unique and clever. It had QPAC airbus systems as well, and the very best in airbus laws and protections that made it something really special to fly. It was delayed and frustrated by a very stubborn bug for Mac users? Not a major issue in context, but it simply refused to be hunted down and fixed, as a beta tester on the A350 I spent hours (and hours) doing loops in trying to focus it down, but it still remained elusive. It will in time be usually something very simple that fixes it, but that is not to take away the achievement this aircraft is to X-Plane's quality and position in flight simulation, and a pro version of the A350 is still coming.


Hydroz and Khamsim brought out their excellent HU-16 Albatross that was a great aircraft to get your head around, and Khamsin also updated his Mitchell. And I liked the old B-29 from Virtavia and Dawson Designs, strange to fly but very rewarding if you are willing to put in the effort.


Carenado had again a huge year with constant updates right through the range and great releases. Putting the updated GNS 10.30 gps into Carenado aircraft was always going to brilliant, and it was. And Carenado also created a unique manipulator system that could change the way we operate knobs and switches in the simulator. great for scroll mouse users, but I found it a bit strange with my one puck mouse. In aircraft it started with the PA-38 Tomahawk, which i simply loved as it was simply a great aircraft to fly. Then came the brilliant B200 King Air, a monster of an aircraft that was then even later over shadowed by the even bigger and more monstrous KIng Air in the 1900D that was just the ultimate King Air you can ever get in simulation. Released in-between these two giants was the Piper PA-46 Malibu and the excellent CT206H Turbo Stationair, which is really the very best single-upper wing aircraft in X-Plane bar none. So for Carenado it was a just that a huge year, and great simulation.


Helicopters did exceptionally well as well. You don't get a huge amount of releases in the rotary world. But the quality is out of this world, and 2014 did not disappoint. DMO started it out with a really great update to the S92, now a major player and a great big aircraft to fly. Then came the Bell 407 by Dreamfoil Creations which is quite possibly the very best helicopter ever created for X-Plane, it was simply in every area sensational. But my overall favorite was the B412 Huey from X-Trident. It is still the most addictive aircraft I have ever flown in X-Plane... When you are still flying at 4am in the morning and still wanting to have another go after five hours of flying already means this aircraft totally has your guts and heart at its controls. I now fear going near it as I know I will lose hours or a day if I do so and reviews are then left hanging half done. It is a total love/hate relationship, but the love for the B412 will always win me over.


None expected shows for the year are also to be noted. The IXEG 737 classic is still going into another year of development. Real 733's are now going to the graveyard in big numbers and X-Plane still hasn't had any hours behind the controls of one of them, it is now promised before next Christmas...  2015! But still well worth the wait (ing). The EADT x737 3d cockpit aircraft was a no show as well, but the update images show an amazing experience when it does arrive. maybe 2015 will finally be the year of the B737?  I doubt the PMDG B737 will join the queue, there was a lot of noise from PMDG in the middle of the year referring to X-Plane and then nothing? So PMDG is slowly going into the "I'll believe it when I see it" zone. JARdesign didn't release his A332 either, but I doubt it is very far away in early 2015.


An area I am interested in is the DC-9/MD-80, There was a great freeware release from Roger2009, but three projects were announced and going into 2015 only one in "Rotate's" MD-80 is still ongoing, but what an aircraft this is. If one aircraft should be in your hanger in 2015, it will be or should be this one...  looks simply brilliant.


Going into 2015 and news of new work is very thin on the ground. Developers are holding their cards closer to their chests these days. But they are all out there work and creating...  we will just have to wait and see what 2015 brings us.


To wrap up this review of 2014 and the year, I will now list my Best of the Year 2014:

Best Aircraft : FlightFactor aero A350-900

Late in the year but an excellent, fully featured and clever aircraft.

Honorable Mention : X Crafts ERJ-195LR,

A great debut aircraft and expect great designs from this designer.

Best Classic Aircraft : Boeing 737-200 Series - FlyJSim

As good as the B727 series, but smaller.

Honorable Mention : Grumman HU-16 Albatross

Really different and versatile aircraft, loved it.

Best General Aviation Aircraft : Carenado Beechcraft 1900D King Air

Just simply brilliant...  thats it.

Honorable Mention : Any Aerobask aircraft

Very modern and very different, and now a glider as well

Best Helicopter : Bell 407 by Dreamfoil Creations/Bell 412 X-Trident

Both totally brilliant and very hard to split

By design it is the B407, but the B412 totally won my heart.

Best Scenery : CZST - Stewart by beti-x and EIDW - Dublin by Aerosoft

Both really really good scenery, but EIDW is more usable and functional for everyday use.

Honorable Mention : Tom Curtis

His work throughout 2014 was just excellent again in scale and detail.

Person of the Year 2014 : tdg (scenery)

Airport by airport and a release sometimes daily...  tdg is slowly changing the face of X-Plane Airports. His facade work is simply overwhelming and sensational, his detailing is superb. How can he do all that work? and in a single day?

Honorable Mentions : Philipp Münzel and Daniel Klaue

Again Phillipp has touched X-Plane with his brilliance. The GARMIN 430/530 gps in X-Plane 10.30 is another master work and Daniel drives X-Plane forward with his brilliance in so many areas that you don't see...  but use all the time.

Best Plugin : SkyMaxx Pro

Real clouds and real weather.

Honorable Mention : TugMaster - JARDesign

Finally a really decent pushback truck(s)

Best Moment of the year 2014 : Using the GNS 430/530 GPS for the first time.

Worst Moment of the Year 2014 : Monday 22nd December 2014?


Biggest distraction of 2014 : The none shows that promised us an announcement that never came.

Personal Favorites of 2013 : The Bell 412, CT206H Turbo Stationair, 1900D Carenado King Air, B200 King Air in fact any King Air? and the A350-900 and finally flying the CRJ-200 correctly (It is a very long story)


So that was 2014... So was it a good year or a great year. Certainly X-Plane grew and even passed the significant milestone of 300,000 users on the X-Plane.org, many will of course churn over and leave, but many are also liking what they are seeing and are joining us and most importantly are contributing to the cause. So we grew as a simulator, a lot and that is a nice feeling. The X-Plane.Org shop was overhauled and ready for 2015. A very difficult and long task, but well worth the effort. So in many ways X-Plane is in great shape for 2015 and another big year in simulation.


I will be back with more and a better X-Plane Reviews in 2015, but at this point I'm not sure exactly when I will be actually able to restart? The date above of 22nd December 2014 was a day of "oh hell" as my trusty iMac went into meltdown and totally blew out its graphic chip?, Yes its true, X-Plane actually blew my graphic chip to pieces and that is how hard I have pushed it this year... In fact I am proud to say "I ran X-Plane so hard I blew my computer up!" It works but only in "Slow" mode which means no X-Plane for me at all and I am in denial. When I can get it fixed depends on when the Australian workforce decides to come back from its annual holidays and I can get the parts. Hopefully in the very early days in January 2015.


I have to thank Joe Charman for his huge contribution this past year, thanks Joe and to all the incredible developers that provide me with their work and and valuable information to make these reviews work and happen. I am as always in awe in what they do. Finally to Nicolas Taureau and the backing of the guys of the X-Plane.Org that keeps the site running smoothly and give great advice and assistance.


So all X-Plane flyers, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!...  more to come and soon!


"Anyone know of any good books to read, while I get my computer fixed?"


Stephen Dutton


Copyright©2014: X-Plane Reviews

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